Chris Richmond MCPara reflects on the recent paramedic mental health and wellbeing stakeholder collaboration day
After a number of years of plotting it finally happened; the College of Paramedics got the right people in the room to discuss how we can support the mental health and wellbeing of the profession.
This collaboration event took place on 17th July at the Royal College of Psychiatrists in London, not only a very apt venue given the nature of what was being discussed, but also we are very grateful to the president of the RCPsychs for her sponsorship of the event and providing the venue. Attendees included members of the Paramedic Mental Health and Wellbeing Steering Group and other delegates from all corners of the country, including representatives from NHS England, NHS Employers and the HCPC.
We were delighted to welcome Suzanne Rastrick, Chief Allied Health Professions Officer, who chaired the afternoon workshop; this was important as Suzanne is an individual who can help facilitate and implement what was discussed. The matter of workforce mental health is a key priority for Suzanne and it forms part of a commitment that was signed up to by the NHS England Board as part of AHPs into Action (www.england.nhs.uk/ahp/ahps-into-action/).
The day was interactive throughout with engaged discussion on important topics, prompted by informative presentations. This started with Professor Richard Williams who showed us that we are not alone on this journey, and my take home was that, if we want to improve outcomes, we need to improve processes and systems.
Andrea James, a partner at Knights 1759 who supports paramedics in fitness to practise hearings presented next. I was shocked, but not surprised that most paramedics self-refer to the HCPC, but they are the profession that self-refers the most amongst HCPC registrants. The notion that paramedics are led to believe that this will “give them credit” with the HCPC was explored, and it was noted that in many cases, self-referral or indeed referral at all may not be appropriate before the outcome of an employer investigative process. This led to some strong discussion and a clear commitment from Suzanne Rastrick that this was something that she was looking to resolve nationally. Certainly, some food for thought and for me, a realisation that this was much bigger than we first thought.
Other presentations from the Association of Ambulance Chief Executives (AACE), the paramedic suicide research project, The Ambulance Service Charity and Mind Blue Light programme certainly showed us how we can improve things, and also highlighted what is being done already. This was followed by a presentation from recently retired, former Chief Superintendent Paul Hurley who led the investigations into the copycat suicides in South Wales, highlighting the work that he has done to develop a bespoke course for Police colleagues. Again, this showed the true extent of the effect on the wider emergency workforce.
The conclusion for the day was roundtable discussions. The table that I facilitated made some good points around what we can do better in the future. Our outputs showed that to make change we need to start with the HEIs to ensure that students are given the skills to cope, we need to address the workforce gaps and the culture in Ambulance Services as all these contribute to the pressures that operational ambulance paramedics and call centre staff feel.
The final message from Suzanne was that we must deliver on this, and she will hold the system to account to ensure this. Watch this space, good things might be about to happen.